3 Ways to Help Children Live Simplyposted by Andrea | 10/18/2016
In case you haven’t noticed yet, I am fairly passionate about organizing, time-management, purging, cleaning, and all things related to simple living. Many days I can’t even believe THIS is what I do for a living!
And now that my children are getting a bit older, I’m excited to finally be able to share my love for simple living with them.
Nora already has so much fun “helping” me organize or declutter a space in our home. She loves going over the “plan for the day” with me, and even Simon gets excited whenever we rearrange furniture or reorganize any of his clothes or toys.
I’m sure we will butt heads occasionally as they get older and have more of an opinion on what they wear, how they decorate their spaces, what activities they fill their time with, and what items they want to purge… but for now, my goal is to help them appreciate the benefits of simply living while they are still young.
If you have children of any age, I hope today’s post will give you a few ideas to help your children learn to live more simply… believe it or not, I’m not even going to tell you to purge, nix screen time, or stop buying toys!
1. Learn to Use Different Language.
When you hear your child say “I want that” or “I need that” in regards to a treat, toy, book, movie, game, electronic, etc. stop and encourage them to say “I like this” or “That is cool” instead.
This might not seem like a huge difference, but it IS!
Instead of wanting to have one more thing, they can simply appreciate and acknowledge that the item looks like fun without feeling like they need to have it.
Also, I always try to say “we are choosing not to spend our money on ______” instead of “we can’t afford _____” — especially since the things they ask for are usually very inexpensive.
Yes, we do have enough money to buy a $5 toy or a $15 lunch; however “we are choosing not to spend our money that way”. Technically, with the amount of money we’re approved to spend on our credit card, we could “afford” to buy A LOT. However, I can’t even begin to count how many times my children have heard me say, “No, I don’t think we’ll spend our money that way today.”
In fact, just last week, Nora asked, “Mom, can we choose to spend our money on ______ today?” It was so cute I almost wanted to say yes… but instead, I said she should add it to her birthday list 🙂
Finally, I try to talk about things in terms of items we “need, use, want, and/or love” and I think this is helpful when it comes time to purge. My kids know that I personally purge the things I no longer need, use, want or love… and they help me purge their own items too. However, I rarely force them to purge anything if they really love it or just want it for a bit longer.
Maybe they don’t NEED it or even USE it all that much… but if they want to keep it for a bit longer, or if it’s something they really love, then they can keep it (within reason). I will revisit it with them in another week or so, often pointing out the fact that they didn’t even touch it the entire week… and they are almost always willing to purge it at that point.
Of course, this doesn’t always work, but I like that it often empowers them to make the final decision.
2. Stop Rushing.
A few weeks ago, I shared my thoughts about margin time — and why it’s so important for my own sanity each day.
However, I know that this extra time is also extremely important for my children. After all, no one likes being rushed through their day, always feeling late or behind.
My kids eat VERY slowly — I know this, and plan accordingly. We start eating breakfast almost an hour before we need to leave the house in the morning because they eat better and eat more if I give them enough time.
Similarly, if we need to be anywhere later in the day, I make sure to leave plenty of room to change last-minute diapers, get coats and shoes on, load up in the car, and unload again at our destination.
If you have older children, I would highly encourage you to give them enough margin time as well — this might mean quitting one extracurricular activity so they can be home a bit more. It might mean saying ‘no’ to friends coming over or to a weekend getaway so they can actually slow down and relax instead of rushing around everywhere without a break.
I am a strong advocate for teaching children how to be responsible and manage their own time… but as parents, we also need to set boundaries for our children and make sure their schedules aren’t too overloaded and jam-packed.
3. Raise Awareness About Less Privileged Children.
Simon and James are still too young for this, but I’m amazed how responsive Nora is when we read books or talk about children who don’t have nearly as much as she does.
Several of the American Girl books go into detail about poverty-stricken lifestyles where the girls only have 1 or 2 toys, sometimes live in orphanages, and battle through the Depression or life on the frontier with almost no clothing, toys, or possessions of their own.
We’ve also talked in length about children in third-world countries who don’t even have clean water or enough food to eat. Right now, it’s difficult for Nora to comprehend a child not having enough food (it’s difficult for me too!) She’ll say things like, “well then why don’t they just ask their neighbor for some food?” or “they should just go to their grandparents house to get supper.” or “if they don’t have food in their house, they need to go to the store.”
I realize this is a big step (especially for younger children) but I’m positive it has made a difference for Nora — and honestly, it makes a difference for me too!
By simply knowing and realizing how many less fortunate people there are in our world, and even in our community, it makes it so much easier to look at all our stuff with different eyes. We appreciate our things more and I’ve found children especially are more willing to purge items they no longer need, use, want, or love if they know other less fortunate children could benefit from them.
As the parent of 3 very young children, I ultimately still have the “final say” in what things my children have and what activities they participate in; however, my hope is that by using different language, trying not to rush, and making them aware of how fortunate we are, THEY will learn to make some of their own simple-living decisions.
And you know what… I think it’s working!
Nora regularly gives me things she no longer wants and tells me to put them in the donation bag.
And just last week, Nora got an American Girl magazine in the mail (don’t ask me how they found us — I swear we’ve never purchased anything from them!) After looking at the magazine, she told me that it was fun to look through but that she didn’t want me to give her any more magazines. When I asked why not, she said it just made her want all the stuff in the magazine even though she knows she’s too young to have it.
She said she’ll add it to her birthday list for her 8 year old birthday 🙂
Obviously, these tips alone won’t magically transform your children into simple-living, time-managing, neat-freak, purging machines… but they are steps in the right direction!
Consistent repetition and regular practice are key for our children… and they aren’t all bad for us adults either!